Clayton Armstrong

Clayton Armstrong

Whether you are a religious person or not, one cannot refute the fact that the Holy Bible is one of the greatest books upon the Earth. In it you can find lessons and examples that teach invaluable life lessons. One of those lessons I have learned and I know applies to the current situation Pocatello-Chubbuck school board members and other administrators should look into is found in the book of Acts 9:1-6. This is the story of Saul (later to become Paul the apostle) who was a chief persecutor of the followers of Christ. Saul did many things to hurt Christians and even consented to having them stoned to death. Here is the actual account of what followed: “And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”

To “kick against the pricks” means to persistently hurt yourself by going against sound moral principles and ideas that encompass the values and standards of those around you. Saul thought his own ideas and principles were correct, when in fact they were not. When Saul heard the voice of Jesus he immediately changed his ways and became a devout Christian.

So, what does this have to do with School District 25 board members and other administrators including Principal Lisa Delonas? To give these people the benefit of doubt, I could say that when Delonas proposed her idea to get rid of the “Indian” logo at Pocatello High School, she felt she was doing the “right” thing. Additionally, when the school board went along with her proposal and also voted to ignore parents’ requests to get rid of the hybrid schedule and let their kids return to school full time, these board members may have thought they were doing the “right” thing. However, the public outcry has been and continues to be very much against the board’s and Principal Delonas’ actions. Yet, unlike Saul, they do not listen and continue to “kick against the pricks.”

It is sad that the school board, Superintendent Doug Howell, Delonas and other top district administrators think that their positions put them above the voice of the people. They also believe that the opposition to many of their decisions, particularly the Indian name change and continuing with the hybrid schedule is just a small group of people who do not amount to much and will not make a difference. They could not be further from the truth; as they continue to “kick against the pricks” they are bringing more injury to themselves, our schools and the students, while fueling more community members to oppose them.

You have seen the emails by Delonas stating that she was not to tell anyone about the name change and yet she did. Delonas has never answered the question of who told her not to say anything and why they told her that. In addition, it would be nice to know what are the consequences for Delonas disobeying the directive not to tell anyone? Is Delonas and the board exempt from their own rules?

On Sept. 15, when the board listened to Delonas’ request to get rid of the Indian and then public input was given there are important details of which the public needs to be made aware of. First, Delonas had been prepping her faculty from before school even began and she was indoctrinating her students with her personal agenda from the beginning of the school year. She also on more than one occasion took up precious class time to show videos and propaganda to influence students to agree with her. At the board meeting when time was given for public comment it was about a 50/50 split for those speaking in favor of retiring the Indian to those against. However, of those who spoke in favor of retiring the Indian, over 95 percent of them were current students and faculty of PHS. Of those who spoke who were against retiring the Indian, over 95 percent of them were patrons of the community and members of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. It is clear that those who do not want the change are a correct sample of what the community wants. If you take a logical look at this situation you can clearly see that the group who spoke to remove the Indian were biased and had been instructed by Delonas, and had been so for weeks prior to the board meeting. Yet, the community had less than a week to prepare and gather their thoughts and take a stand.

You would think that after hearing unbiased members of the community, the great-granddaughter of Chief Pocatello and other tribal members that the board would take a step back and give this important issue more thought and deliberation. However, it’s obvious that the board had decided to retire the Indian prior to their board meeting because at the conclusion of the meeting it took a couple of minutes to unanimously vote in favor of destroying the Indian logo at PHS. The public should be seeing the same behavior in the choosing of a new mascot because even though the majority of the votes were NOT for “Thunder” that is what the board wanted and that is what they chose. The public needs to open their eyes and truly see that this board and administrators like Delonas and superintendent Howell do not care what the community wants; they just want to go through the motions of making the public feel like they have input when in reality they do not.

With regards to the community objection of retiring the Indian, keeping the hybrid schedule and the recall of board members, the district continually responds with comments like, “Our board and administrators value community input, follow best practices, use current data driven approaches and have transparency in their decision making process.” Yet, even the most ignorant person can see the hypocrisy in these statements. Let’s start with “transparency.” Where is the transparency in Lisa Delonas recruiting students and faculty to her cause and stating to “not let anyone know because she had been told to not tell anyone”? Where is the transparency in the district not informing the public as soon as they informed Delonas? Now, how about the comment about following “best practices.” When the director of the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci state (you can find this information on the CDC webpage) that all kids should be in school and that school is the “safest place” for kids to be, isn’t this a BEST PRACTICE? Yet our school board and administration choose to ignore the leaders in the field by keeping the hybrid schedule.

What about using “data-driven” research to make decisions such as the board and Delonas claim? You can find any data to support your claim. Delonas used data to show that some Native American students have shown signs of depression, low self-esteem and isolation when they attend schools where a Native American symbol or mascot is used. However, I can show you data where the majority of Native Americans do NOT find these symbols or mascots racist or offensive. On the contrary, they are proud to have them used. Did Delonas do her research to find out if the reason behind Native Americans not feeling comfortable, welcome, or feeling depressed had anything to do with a bad home life, substance abuse, or poverty? Because the “data” overwhelmingly prove that most students, regardless of race or ethnicity who are depressed, lonely, have low self-esteem or feel isolated come from troubled homes as mentioned above. If you are going to use data to prove your point, make sure you present ALL sides of the data.

If students at PHS do not understand the Indian dances or assemblies, why are they not taught about their meaning? When my children and I went to PHS the dance team and the students were educated on the meaning of the dance and the breaking of the arrow. Why are the students and dancers not being given the background and education about the Native Americans? Wouldn’t it be much easier to educate the students about the heritage of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes rather than eradicate them? Better yet, why not offer a humanities course at the school that teaches the history and heritage of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes? Isn’t this a better solution? Or does Delonas not want to do this because she won’t be “making history?”

I have had hundreds and nearing thousands of people reach out to me in frustration and anger over the districts handling of the above-discussed topics. Thousands of people have signed petitions to keep the Indian at PHS; thousand of students and parents voice their desire to return to school and more than the needed signatures were gained to recall three board members. How does the board and school administrators respond to this? They say the efforts of the people are simply a mob mentality and that we are only a small group that does not amount to much. In addition, I know for a fact (but will not give out names) that certain board members had their spouses or associates call individuals who signed the recall petition and harass them. This is how the board responds; they harass, threaten retaliation, and use intimidation to oppose those who speak out. I also personally know many employees of this district who agree with the board being recalled, agree that secondary students should be in school full time and disagree with Lisa Delonas removing the Indian as the symbol of PHS. However, these employees fear retaliation so they keep quiet.

The contention and serious problems surrounding the issues discussed could easily go away if the board members who have been recalled would do the right thing and resign. It is that simple. If the board members do not resign then there will be an election and they will be removed anyway. In addition, thousands of others and myself will encourage all patrons to vote NO on the mill levy. The mill levy does not pay for teachers and employee salaries. It is plant facility money used for district projects. We need to STOP supporting a school district that will not listen to the people and who continually does things BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. On the other hand, if these board members would resign, as they should, then thousands of people myself included would vote to support the mill levy and encourage others to do the same.

When Saul heard the right voice he immediately changed and did the right thing and became one of the greatest defenders of truth. You board members, Lisa Delonas and others could do this to by listening and following the voice of the people and stop “kicking against the pricks.”

Clayton Armstrong is a lifelong resident of Pocatello, a 1978 graduate of Pocatello High School, and a graduate of Idaho State University. He retired after a 33-year teaching career with School District 25. He was a coach in the district for 35 years, including 20 years at Pocatello High School. Armstrong also owns a local business, Armstrong Sprinklers and Landscaping LLC.